Territorial change, urbanization and development of football clubs in China

Miguel Angel Hidalgo Martinez*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The professional football clubs from the Chinese Super League (CSL), the top male professional football league in China, have been at the frontline in the fiercely competitive international market by paying record-breaking transfer fees and offering exorbitant salaries to recruit players. This paper analyses the development of professional football clubs in China as a tertiary capital-intensive urban industry from a spatial perspective, understanding urbanization as a process propelled by changes in the system of administrative divisions. It argues that changes in the territorial configuration of cities produce intertwined dynamics of land-use changes and fixed capital investments, a process in which land developers and industrial conglomerates accumulate surpluses that are subsequently invested in the development of professional football clubs as a tertiary circuit of capital investment. The paper highlights the establishment of urban districts in cities at the highest scales of power in China’s territorial system of administrative divisions as a crucial strategy through which the central government has reproduced urbanization, financially empowering conglomerates that reinvest capital in the football industry. The development and achievements of two football clubs–Guangzhou Evergande-Taobao FC and Shanghai SIPG FC–are discussed in the context of the territorial administrative restructuring of their host cities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)258-277
Number of pages20
JournalTerritory, Politics, Governance
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Guangzhou
  • Shanghai
  • city
  • football clubs
  • territorial change
  • urban China
  • urban districts

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